Don’t Mess With The Scripture

Don’t Mess with the Scripture

Newsweek, 12/23/2014 ran an article titled The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin.  https://www.newsweek.com/2015/01/02/thats-not-what-bible-says-294018.html

In this letter the author skillfully outlined how the bible cannot be trusted.  If you look at the evidence they put forward then it would be easy to convince yourself that there is no reason to put any trust in the bible, or any of its translators or scribes for that matter. 

This is not necessarily a direct response to this article, but rather it did get me thinking how many young Christians are attacked with such half-truths and then told that they don’t have a leg to stand on. Indeed this article goes so far as to start the article in such a manner as to silence ignorant Christians from the very first few paragraphs.

The author uses phrases like, “They are God’s frauds, cafeteria Christians…”.  In addition the article states that “clergy invoke a book they seem to have never read and words they don’t understand”.  The only true thing the author reveals is ignorance of what Christianity is all about.  That is probably our fault.  We do know that not everyone who calls themselves a Christian, is in fact a disciple of Christ as required in scripture.  Despite the stereo types we have been granted by modern day Nero’s we do have some real assurances that the Word of God is in fact just that.

Here is the thing.  Most critics do not have an issue with the original scriptures being divinely inspired by God. The reason is that none of these original text have survived.  What most arguments center on is the accuracy of the text we have received.  Here is the fundamental Christian view of scripture.  If God divinely inspired the writers of the Bible, then he (God) also can preserve it. We have been given warnings from God, not to alter his revelation of himself to us.   

Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. Deuteronomy 4.2

Numerous times the different authors of the Bible asserted that they received direct guidance from God on their writings.

  • Leviticus 1.1 – the Lord called unto Moses, and spake unto him… “saying”
  • Jeremiah 1.4 –(Jeremiah) “the word of the Lord came…. “saying”
  • Revelation 1.1 – The Revelation of Jesus Christ … which God gave unto him (John)

Throughout the bible the authors warn of the dangers of altering the text of the scriptures.

Moses the 1st author warns against adding or taking away from the Words of God.

What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it (Deuteronomy 12.32)

The Apostle John gives a clear warning with a consequence on adding or taking away from the words of the prophecy.

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19)

This statement tells us:

  • Not to add to the prophecy or you will receive the judgement of God
  • Not to take away from the prophecy or the Lord will take away you part in the book of life, and the holy city, and from the blessings that are written in this prophecy
  • This also tells us that there is no further revelation to be accepted, because God is not sending anymore revelation.

Even in the middle of the Bible God commands us:

Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar. (Proverbs 30.5-6)

Solomon reminds us that the word is:

  • Pure
  • Trustworthy
  • There is a consequence for changing the Word
  • God will reveal you as a liar

The importance of these warnings and reverence of the word of God is demonstrated in archeological findings.  The Isaiah text (700 B.C.) when compared to the copied text of Isaiah found in the Dead Sea Scrolls (200 B.C.) are almost identical with only punctuations added.  So the idea that original texts are necessary to get direct inspiration from God is foolish.  God has preserved his message to us. 

Mathew 5:18 – reminds us that not one jot or tittle will be removed until the law is completely fulfilled.

Some proofs of accuracy in prophesy Recorded in history:

         
Prophecy Book Written Fulfilled Expanse
Babylon ruled over Judah Jeremiah 25:11-12 626-586 B.C. 609-539 B.C. ~50yrs    
Babylon’s Gates Open for Cyrus Isaiah 45:1 Between 701 and 681 B.C. 539 B.C. Hundreds of years after prophecy  
Babylon permanently overthrown Isaiah 13:19 Between 701 and 681 B.C. 539 B.C. Hundreds of years after prophecy  
Babylon Reduced to Swampland Isaiah 14:23 Between 701 and 681 B.C. 539 B.C. and Archology confirmed in 1800s Hundreds of years after prophecy  
Jews survive Babylonian Rule Jeremiah 32:36-37 From 626 and 586 B.C. 536 B.C. ~90 yrs    

Add to this over 300 prophecies fulfilled in the birth, death, resurrection, and ascending of Jesus Christ to the throne room of God. 

How can we know what we received is accurate? Jewish tradition takes place after the fall to Babylon and Assyria. The scribes located the books of the Law and began making copies.  This custom of copying the text was a show of extreme respect and detailed scribing of the Word of God. Scott Manning published an article in March 17, 2017 that gives the following requirements for copying the Old Testament by Jewish Scribes.[i]  

Jewish requirements for scribes:

  1. They could only use clean animal skins, both to write on, and even to bind manuscripts.
  2. Each column of writing could have no less than forty-eight, and no more than sixty lines.
  3. The ink must be black, and of a special recipe.
  4. They must verbalize each word aloud while they were writing.
  5. They must wipe the pen and wash their entire bodies before writing the word “Jehovah,” every time they wrote it.
  6. There must be a review within thirty days, and if as many as three pages required corrections, the entire manuscript had to be redone.
  7. The letters, words, and paragraphs had to be counted, and the document became invalid if two letters touched each other. The middle paragraph, word and letter must correspond to those of the original document.
  8. The documents could be stored only in sacred places (synagogues, etc).
  9. As no document containing God’s Word could be destroyed, they were stored, or buried, in a genizah – a Hebrew term meaning “hiding place.” These were usually kept in a synagogue or sometimes in a Jewish cemetery.

Some unique things about the bible verses other ancient scripts

  • Bible’s claim that God is the author
    • Over 1500 statements in the text claim divine origin
    • Bible’s Internal Unity of Message
    • 40 Different Authors
    • Written over 1500 years
    • 3 Different Continents
    • Message from cover to cover: God saves through Jesus Christ
  • Historical Accuracy – some examples
    • There has never been any archeological evidence to dispute any historical claim in the scriptures
    • Moabite Stone found in 1868 documents Moab rebellion against King Jehoram soon after the death of Ahab (2 Kings 3)
    • Lachish Letters found in 1930s are documents found of a communique between two Hebrew commanders concerning the oncoming of the Babylonians impending invasion under King Nebuchadnezzar
    • Hezekiah’s tunnel discovered in 1867 recorded in (2 Samuel 5:6-8)
  • Textual Accuracy – No other ancient text has as many resources to draw upon to test its accuracy as the Bible does.
    • Over 5300 manuscripts fo the New Testament
    • 10,000 Latin Vulgate
    • Over 24,000 manuscript copies of portions of the text
    • No other ancient text has close to the amount of verifiable copies for comparison of accuracy – including Homer’s Iliad (643 surviving manuscripts)
  • Concerning Christ in Archeology
    • Codex Mediceus 68 II – Roman historian Tacitus wrote in a major work titled Annals (116-117 A.D.) giving credit to Pontius Pilate for executing Jesus.
    • Famous and Memorable Works of Josephus (including Jewish War and Jewish Antiquities Book 20) – Jewish historian Flavius Josephus’, (37-100 A.D.), account of the martyrdom of James, identifies James as “the brother of Jesus who-is-called Messiah” being executed by the high priest Ananus in 62 A.D.
    • Tetimonium Flavianum – 15th Century manuscript contains the testimony of Josephus referring to Jesus as a wise man, “if one out to call him a man.” It further speaks about his crucifixion, and resurrection. (authenticity contested – however it is an ancient text that has been recovered).
    • Ossuary of East Talpiot a district in Jerusalem inscribed, “Jacob, son of Joseph, brother of Yeshua” (published in 2002).
    • These tell us:
      • Jesus existed as a man
      • His personal name was Jesus (Greek translation)
      • He was called Christos (Greek translation)
      • He had a brother named James
      • His followers multiplied in both Jew and Hellenistic cultures
      • Jewish leaders did not approve of him
      • Pilate decided to execute him
      • Pilate was the governor of Judea 26-36 A.D.
  • Other not so famous people in history
    • Celsus a philosopher thought Jesus was a majician
    • Piny the Younger a Roman governor wrote about worship of Christ as a god.
    • Suetonius a Roman writer, lawyer and historian, wrote of riots in 49 A.D. among Jews in Rome thought to be incited by Christians
    • Mara bar Serapion, a POW held by Rome wrote a letter describing the wise Jewish king, indicating Jesus as the subject. 

Why is this so important?

But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. (John 32.31)

  • We can trust what is written
  • We can trust that it came from God
  • We can trust that we have the complete revelation from God
  • We know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God
  • We know that we can please God in obedience through Jesus Christ
  • We know that we can believe in Jesus Christ for salvation
  • We know that this belief in Jesus is all we need to have life

The 1st chapter of John refers to 2 different reactions to the Light (Word). 

  • Rejection and darkness
  • Believe and Life

John 1:10-13 says:

  • Some received Him
  • Some believed Him
  • Those who believe were empowered to be the sons of God

We cannot determine who will believe our report.  However; this must not stop our witness.  In the Book of Exodus it speaks of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart. But; if you take a closer look you will see that God in his mercy revealed Himself to Pharaoh multiple times and gave him many chances.  The scripture says that first Pharaoh repeatedly hardened his heart toward God. God so then with no other recourse left, let Pharaoh have his way.  Pharaoh’s disbelief led to his death, and the death of many others.  Unfortunately, those who do not believe and have a public forum will lead many to their own death because of unbelief. 

The good thing is that those of us who do believe.  To us has been given the message of redemption.  This message is ours and ours alone to deliver it.  Angels are not given so great an honor as to lead others to Christ.  If you have ever wondered what God has for you to do, it is this, love God (Mark 12:30), love your neighbor (Mark 12:31), and make disciples of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20).


[i] https://scottmanning.com/content/process-of-copying-the-old-testament-by-jewish-scribes/

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